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FAMILY LEGACIES

Sweet new Texas-based website lets you record a final goodbye for loved ones

Kids can know their grandparents and great-grandparents a little better. Keeping Families Connected/Facebook

Anew North Texas startup helps soothe the sting of losing loved ones by allowing them to leave behind an entirely different kind of heirloom. A Sweet Goodbye is a new online service that lets people record messages that can be accessed and enjoyed by family and friends after they're gone.

Fort Worth-based founder Rich Hollander, who worked for Radio Shack/Tandy Corporation in the area for more than 25 years, got the idea about a year ago during a reflective moment.

"I was sitting in synagogue, a quiet time when you contemplate things," he says. "During those times, I talk to my parents — who are both gone — and my late brother, and about 15 other people who have passed away. On this particular morning, I was talking to my mom. I knew what she was telling me, but I couldn't hear her voice. I thought, 'I wish I could just push a button and hear her voice,' but there's nothing I could do about that."

While it's too late for Hollander to hear his mother's voice, he says, he wanted to provide such a service for other people. He also says he wanted to make the process as simple and as painless as possible.

"You go to our website and click on a button that says, 'I want to make a recording.' Before that you prepare a little bit. You figure out what you want to say, and you figure out who you want to send the message to. You get their email address, and we ask you to give us two trusted advisers so they can tell us when you passed away, and then you just record your message, and that's it."

The message customers record is hosted on the cloud, and it's all audio based. Your loved one will hear it after you die, as many times as they would like. There is no video option, and messages can last a maximum of five minutes long. According to Hollander, this is by design rather than due to technical limitations.

"We thought about our target customers; Baby Boomers and their parents don't want to see themselves," he says. "They don't like the idea of recording a video. And people don't want to listen for more than five minutes. You can say a lot in that amount of time."

Some people choose to pass down secret family recipes or record tales from their youth, the company says.

Realizing that people can also use phones and other home devices to make recordings, Hollander made A Sweet Goodbye inexpensive, accessible, and convenient. He says there are other options for similar services on the market, but they are "much more complex" and "much more expensive," costing up to $8 per month, compared to his company's one-time fee.

"You can listen to it a thousand times from your computer or your phone," he says. "You can have your children listen to it. They can listen to their great grandma's voice. For $25, it's a bargain."

Hollander himself uses the service.

"I have two adult daughters in their 40s," he says. "One lives here, one lives in New Zealand. My message to them is something like, 'If you pushed this button, you are probably having a bad day, and just need my voice of reassurance. So, understand that I'm up here in heaven, and I'm looking after you guys, and tomorrow will be a better day than today.' They can push that button and hear that message whenever and wherever they want."

While A Sweet Goodbye is simple to use, there is an emotional hurdle in getting started.

"The hard part is making the first message," Hollander says. "Because it's coming to grips with the fact that you are not going to be around forever, and neither is your mom. But it is cathartic. For me, the second message was extremely easy to make."

The site has just launched and is now available for anyone to access. On Veterans Day (November 11), A Sweet Goodbye will provide one free service for active duty members in the United States military. Later, they will do another giveaway for nurses and first responders. Follow their Facebook page for updates.

"It's our way of doing something nice for the world," Hollander says.

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This article originally ran on CultureMap.

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Building Houston

 
 

Seven startups walked away with cash prizes from this year's MassChallenge accelerator program in Houston. Photo via Getty Images

MassChallenge named its winners of its 2020 accelerator at a virtual event on October 22. The program awarded a total of $200,000 in equity-free prizes across seven startups from its second Houston cohort.

This year's program took place completely virtually due to the pandemic. Already, the 56 startups involved in the cohort have raised $44.4 million funding, generated $24 million in revenue, and created 297 jobs, says Jon Nordby, managing director of MassChallenge Texas in Houston, in a news release.

"This has been a year full of change, to say the least," he says. "But startups thrive in uncertain times — because they can move fast and remain agile, they are able quickly meet each new need that arises. I'm extremely proud of the startups in our 2020 cohort — during the course of the program, they've pivoted, adjusted, and evolved in order to grow their businesses."

The startups that won across the Houston cohort included Houston-based PATH EX Inc., which won the $100,000 Diamond Award, is focused on the rapid diagnosis and treatment of sepsis through an unique pathogen extraction platform.

Four companies won $25,000 Gold Awards:

  • Healium, based in Columbia, Missouri, is an extended reality device created for self-management of anxiety.
  • Ozark Integrated Circuits Inc., based in Fayetteville, Arkansas, specializes in problem solving using technology and software in the harshest environments – from jet engines to earth orbit.
  • PREEMIEr Diagnostics, based in Southfield, Michigan, created a way to identify which premature infants need an adjustment to their glucose levels to prevent them from losing vision.
  • Scout Inc., based in Alexandria, Virginia, is developing the first commercial in-space satellite inspection service.

Two companies won the Sidecar Awards, securing each a $25,000 Innospark Artificial Intelligence Prize.

  • Articulate Labs, based in Dallas, makes mobile, adaptive devices to help knee osteoarthritis and knee replacement patients rehabilitate on the go during everyday activity.
  • Houston-based Starling Medical has tapped into tech to optimize urinary catheter for patients with neurogenic bladder dysfunction.
The Houston Angel Network awarded Ozark Integrated Circuits their prize of $50,000.
"The progress these entrepreneurs made in just a few months has all of the hope, drama, anticipation, and optimism of seeing dawn break after a particularly difficult night," says Wogbe Ofori, Principal at 360Approach and a MassChallenge mentor, in the release. "It's fulfilling, actually, and makes me proud to be a MassChallenge mentor."
The seven startups were awarded alongside 27 other startups from this year's Austin, Boston, and Rhode Island accelerators at the virtual event. The event was hosted by Chris Denson of Innovation Crush, and featured a fireside chat between Arianna Huffington, founder and CEO of Thrive Global, and Linda Pizzuti Henry, managing director at the Boston Globe.
Earlier this fall, MassChallenge named its 10 startup finalists, whittled down from 56 from 13 countries and 13 states to its first-ever virtual accelerator, which began in June.

"In the face of great uncertainty, MassChallenge Texas in Houston charged forward and did exactly what they ask their startups to do: love the problem," says Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner in the release. "The successful pivot to virtual is a testament to the strength of their global community and the motivation of the Houston ecosystem to get behind new ideas and create businesses that will set roots and grow here.

"As one of the most innovative cities, Houston is a place where startups can thrive – even in the midst of a pandemic. Programs like MassChallenge provide the best practices and networks to ensure startups get the access they need to create sustainable businesses and lasting change."

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